Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Where to start?

One of the problems that I have with writing this blog is finding a starting point. To understand what Dana Rohrabacher is really doing, to establish whether or not he is part of the malignancy that grew around the Republican Power structure in Washington or just a good ol' boy along for the ride, you need to write the narrative of his involvement (or non-involvement) in each element.

There are many starting points to this narrative, but if you are just beginning to read the narrative of Dana Rohrabacher, then I suggest that you start with the diary that dengre posted on dailKos today. I warn you, this is not easy reading. If you can read that diary without a sense of outrage welling up inside you, you are a very cold person indeed.

What I want to do is to connect Dana Rohrabacher to the events that dengre has so painstakingly laid out in his series of posts on Jack Abramoff and the destruction of human dignity that took place in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Let me lay out the CNMI narrative for you in Readers Digest short version.

Hong Kong businessman, Willie Tan, recognized that there was an opportunity for self enrichment when the US government established that goods manufactured in the CNMI could be sold with the Made in the USA label. This was clearly described in the New Republic.
The textbook example involved the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (cnmi). An archipelago of Pacific islands captured by the United States in World War II, the cnmi acquired a unique status in the U.S. economy. Even though U.S. labor and minimum wage laws didn't apply in the cnmi, manufacturers had permission to stamp cnmi products with made in the usa labels and to evade trade quotas. Taking advantage of this loophole, Chinese entrepreneurs flocked to the island, bringing with them 32,000 workers, many of them indentured and forced to live in horrifying camps. According to a 1997 federal report, "Violations of labor standards and other abuses appear common.... Chinese contract workers allegedly work under 'shadow' contracts signed in their home country that subvert their rights under the U.S. Constitution.... Foreign contract workers report being victims of such crimes as rape, assault, and forced prostitution by those who have recruited them to work in the cnmi." To protect the $1 billion per year garment industry and stave off legislation that might correct some of these conditions, the cnmi and its business interests hired Abramoff



He established dual citizenship (Hong Kong and CNMI) and proceeded to build a sweatshop empire based on importing labor from other Asian countries, keeping them in near slave conditions for the fortunate. Others were forced into prostitution, even forced to have abortions if they were unfortunate enough to get pregnant. All of this is clearly documented, but our government has done little or nothing to protect the workers in the CNMI. Even when California Congressman George Miller tried to have US labor laws extended to the CNMI, the legislation was bottled up by Tom DeLay.

In fact, there is a video recording shown on 20/20 of Willie Tan referring to the fact that DeLay would not allow this to happen. Why could Wilie Tan get away with this? Consider that the CNMI Governor through a good portion of this time was Ben Fitial, once a Vice President of Tan Holdings.

As long as the Republicans were in charge of Congress, nothing happened that would affect the CNMI and Willie Tan. In fact, that is still true. Consider that from the 2006 effort to raise the minimum wage, the clauses that would have raised the minimum wage in the CNMI were stripped out of the bill in between the time it was approved in committee and when it was voted on the floor of the House. Tan's reach is still powerful even though Abramoff and DeLay are gone.

Where was Dana in all of this?

Well, we know that the CNMI was loudly proclaimed as a triumph of Free Enterprise. The Libertarian Free State Project considered re-focusing as a Free Territory Project and considered the CNMI to be a good "target". I would like to ask Dana whether he chose to see the CNMI though some sort of funny colored glasses. How could he have made fact finding trips to the CNMI in 1996/7:
The trip was from 12-27-1996 through 1-4-1997. Joining Jack Abramoff and Brian Bilbray on the New Year's Eve Holiday Congressional trip to CNMI were Bilbray's wife, Patrick Pizzella, Cong. Rohrabacher, Dana's fiancé Rhonda Carmondy, and Cong. Duncan (R-TN) and his wife.
and again in 1999:

and not to have been aware of what was going on?

Maybe it was Dana's friendship with Abramoff. After all, Abramoff used Rohrabacher as a reference to secure the loan for buying SunCruz, the fraudulent deal which ultimately landed Abramoff in jail. If Dana was on first name relations with Jack, then we have to ask if he was swallowing the swill that Abramoff was handing out regarding the CNMI.

There is no one so blind as the man who chooses not to see.

1 comment:

The Saipan Blogger said...

There is no such thing as CNMI citizenship. Everyone here is American. That makes Willy Tan American, unless he just has a greencard. Even if he only has a greencard, I'm pretty sure all of the Tan kids are American, since I'm sure most of them were born here or in Guam.

...but I don't know for sure, you'd have to ask them.